Other eM's Quick Guides here.
“Holiday? Is like, what? I’m a hyperactive girl, so it may be boring for me to be on the beach doing nothing. I just need to find a place for three weeks and work but sleep in the morning, maybe write a little bit, have a glass of red wine. That’s my perfect holiday.” - French actress Melanie LaurentI have a new favourite city and it is Panjim. No jokes--I used to think that the only two cities I'd live in in India were Bombay or Delhi--sorry Bangalore, your water sitch scared me, but it looks like we're all in the same boat, so joke's on me! Ha-ha? (Also the Bangalore traffic, I know we have traffic in Delhi as well, but at least the roads are wider.) Anyhow, no longer! Now my number two choice of city (number one being our default home with our flat and our friends and our resources) is Panjim! So charming, but of course, I'd have to live in the Latin Quarters to feel that charm 24/7, the apartments are just apartments on roads that are just roads in small town India, nothing super charming about them.
But of course, you don't have to MOVE to Panjim to fall in love with it. You could experience it over a weekend like we did, leaving the home comforts of our friends' villa in North Goa to hunt out some City Livin' for the weekend. As a sign up in a coffee shop said, "The beach is boring." (Roxane Gay in this terrific piece sums up what we're all thinking also.)
Here's what we did. I strongly urge you to give Panjim a few days when you're next in Goa, it's almost like being abroad for a second, except with fish thaalis.
The hotel: We stayed in the lovely Latin Quarters (Fontainhas) where there are loads of little guest houses. We found ours on Booking.com, a really old house called Hospedaria Abrigo De Botelho. I chose it primarily for the long narrow wrap-around balcony that the room had on one side, the high ceilings and the ancient old bed. We looked out over tiled rooftops and there was a bonus mama cat with her kittens frolicking on a nearby roof, two of which looked remarkably like our beloved Bruno, so that was excellent.
Since it was pelting down with rain almost every day, I think we were the only guests (except a very noisy family who joined us for breakfast on the first day, playing loud Punjabi music on their mobile phones while the baby squalled. I don't know where they went after, but we missed breakfast for the next two days and didn't run into them again. Thank god. Murder has been committed for less.)
Rain check: It's so nice and quiet in Goa now. The last time I did a full-on monsoon trip, I was in my early twenties, and two girlfriends and I went to the Cavala resort in Baga beach and got SO wasted all the three nights we were there, someone tattled on us back in Bombay and I returned to long faces and lectures from the fellow I was dating then who was a First Class Fuckface (FCF). The trip was fun though, despite two days of hangover after thirteen tequila shots--uff, I will never be that young and that foolish again, which is a blessing.
We had already bought some raincoats--a yellow button down slicker for me from Oxford stores (very well stocked, a grocery store after my own heart) and K stopped by the side of the road and got himself an orange poncho, which unfortunately also reminds us of the RSS, which is sad, that they've screwed up such a happy colour, but we should try and reclaim it. Just in time too, it rained hard all the days we were in Panjim, puttering about on the scooter.
Coffee/cozy: If you get caught in the rain, make your way to Bombay Coffee Roasters, which is part of the Old Quarters hostel. You can't miss the building, it's got a mural outside made to look like old tiles. They do this hot chocolate which is a massive square of chocolate, about the size of a baby's fist on a stick which you dunk into hot milk. Oh my god, you guys. The sitting, the hot chocolate, the rain, you'll die of coziness.
Another great place to go for coffee (and breakfast if you're up early) is Bodega. It's up a hill and behind a temple, set inside an art institute. It's essentially a courtyard surrounded by three long galleries, and it has coffee, eggs and things AND baked goods. However, do not be fooled by the fancy siren call of Eggs Benedict. I refuse to believe anyone actually loves eggs benny for the sake of eggs benny, you know? You all just think it's a damn posh breakfast or something. And sure, it's pretty, and it's time consuming to make, all that poaching, all that hollandaise, but can we just admit it's sort of... gross? Meh at the best of times. Don't @ me eggs benny lovers! I am ON TO YOU. K ordered it, because we both were slightly hypnotised by it as we always are. Eggssss Benedictttttt. It's like avocado toast, you know? The breakfast you know you should want because it's trendy and fancy but in the end, you should have just stuck to your regular toast and regular eggs.
(That ends my lecture on Eggs Benedict.)
Fish thaalis: On the first day we were there, we wended our way to Ritz Classic. Now, Ritz Classic is the place you tell people in Panjim about and they go, "Ah, Ritz Classic, obviously." It's like when someone comes to Delhi and tells you they've been to Moti Mahal or Pandara Road. You shrug like a Frenchman and go, "But of course."
From what I found out, there are several Ritz Classics, the Classicii as it were, but we went to the one Google Maps sent us to, an air conditioned place with uniformed waiters and knee deep in tables. They had put in seating everywhere, and yet there was a long line (thankfully after we were seated) and sharing tables and people just kept coming, even close to 3 pm, when the restaurant officially closes. It was worth it. The Ritz Classic thaali should be on an Intro To Fish Thaalis course, it is the baseline thaali, it is the thaali that should set expectations, only to shatter your hopes bitterly when you realise what an exception it is. On the plate: prawn curry, TWO pieces of fried fish, each so big, you'll only be able to eat one (and a half if you're lucky), a separate fish curry in a sort of recheado sauce, crabs, mussels, sol kadi, kheer--did I forget anything? Obligatory veg and that dried prawn onion thing. I ate slowly, but I did not eat it all.
On our last day, we went to Corina, another institute, but one that was so dingy it even challenged MY adventurous spirit. It's what the Panjimians call "a taverna," like the Greek (even though Corina is one of the few places that does food), so it smells of old alcoholics, and even had several tables occupied by men drinking busily. It also had the pong of a room not aired out, so while it was clean, it was not exactly appetising, even though the thaali was very good. Go here only if you have the stomach for it and would like feel like one of the locals. There was a mural outside of a man with yellow eyes and that broken vein nose of alcoholics, which I thought was very fitting.
Not a fish thaali: Just down the road from us, a fun little ramen place called Mamarama. We had passed it the day before, in the shadow of a church. We walked in the next day for lunch and heard a loud hallooo. "Guys!" and from behind the counter emerged a Delhi/Bombay/Goa friend who managed the place! Although not biased because of him, Mamarama is super cute with fun food (miso shrimp in butter mmmm) and also breakfast and coffee options if my rant about eggs benny has put you off Bodega (which it shouldn't because it's also lovely. Plus the chef there also consults here so all one umbrella really.)
Draaanks: First: Joseph's. The trendiest little dive bar, and it should be, overrun as it is with people from 99 Springboard (or is it 91? The co-working space is what I mean anyway) and in December, the entirety of the Serendipity Arts Festival descended on it. "A 100 to 200 people," another friend said, shaking his head, "They were spilling out all over the road." As they had to, Joseph's is teeeeny tiny, and that's AFTER they got rid of their taco making tenants next door and added another little room to their establishment. Joseph's is the only dive bar I know in Goa that actually sells Black Jewel and Greater Than gin, and also has Susegad beer on tap and Simba in the fridge, so okay, not very dive bar at all, except the size, the history and the bathroom, which is GENUINE dive for all you tourists, sharing space with a storage room, damp and with a hole in the ground, ominous lightbulb swinging overhead.
Joseph's doesn't do food, so the first night we set out for Clube Nacional. Newly refurbished because a year ago the roof caved in, I remember a couple of years ago, and we were charmed by how old and dingy it was (sensing a pattern here). Now though, it's like a sports bar, everything is newly done but in a bright! loud! way, so even the old uncles drinking (so many old uncles all over Panjim wanting to explain things to us. Mansplaining, Panjim edition) looked a little shell shocked in the light. The food is still really really good though--all these little stuffed pois with things in them, especially the smoked pork, mmmm. Oh, the choriz pao. What a beauty.
One night we went to Pinto's to meet friends and eat and drink as well, and there we had an excellent meal as well, but special shout out for the feijoada, which is this Portuguese dish made with kidney beans and sausage, Goan-ed up with choriz and rajma. Pinto's has a special sausage supplier, so their Goan sausages are light on the vinegar and with a more smoked flavour, and this feijoada is brought in from a nearby home, so it's a special family recipe, I believe. SO GOOD. We also ate it with a different kind of bread than what we'd been having before (I think Clube Nacional also had it). I forget the name, but it had a hard crisp shell and a steamy soft inside, and we were quite greedy about it. Almost like a dinner roll, they served it to us piping hot and you broke the bread in half along the crack on top.
Shopping: Not this time, but when we did our Panjim day trip I went to this little boutique called OMO (recommended by a friend a while ago) and got myself this incredible skirt which I am, of course, being me, saving for the right occasion which is so silly, I should just WEAR it all the time, but I want the first time to be special, you know how it is. Maybe next week when we are in Bangalore? Or maybe the week after that, back in Delhi. I love this skirt, I love its swoopy samurai shape and its high waist, so sexy and how I feel half warrior princess half ballerina. But OMO also has incredible fusion-y type clothes, the kind that I wear often, so if you're into that, definitely go check it out. (there's a Blue Tokai in the back to sweeten your deal.)
OKAY! That's my Panjim list, as always I'd love to hear your feedback, but like, not in a needy way, just in a "oh how nice that someone is reading this thing" way. No links this week, EXCEPT two that I wrote myself.
My mythology column! Last fortnight's theme (and my first) was on Mohini, Vishnu's female avatar. (New one coming out next week.)
Excerpt: How hot was Mohini? So hot that she had an off-again, on-again thing with Shiva in several tales — not quite Ross and Rachel but definitely some Jamie and Claire from Outlander vibes, where Claire's husband left behind in present-day Scotland is Parvati. There are at least three different stories where Shiva either spots her or asks Vishnu as a very special favour to produce her. In most of these stories, he's so overcome that he ejaculates immediately and his semen falls on the ground.
My book recommendation column! This month: privilege and its consequences. Very exciting books.
Excerpt: I read one-and-a-half sports books for you, dear reader, even though the Organised Sport genre bores me to tears. Early on in Nick Hornby’s football classic Fever Pitch, I was yawning so hard I almost dislocated my jaw. [...] Here is my takeaway: Life is too short and there are too many good books in this world to bother ploughing through something that refuses to hold your interest. Move on and abandon it with, well, abandon.